Tag Archives: Serpents Fall

Serpents Fall: A Land Without a King – Session 4

Our heroes are heading northwards, out of Celtia towards the land of Saxony, their plan is to travel to the capitol of Winchester seeking someone who may know more about curses and perhaps even help them lift the curse that prevents Captain Benito from sailing on the seas; whilst the curse stands there is no way that they can each the Sword Isles and out a stop to whatever fiendish plans the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe is concocting. They party have been travelling for a couple of days, and having spent a lot of time at the ruined village previously, supplies are running low; Ozuchi is ranging up ahead looking for supplies, when he sees a village in the distance, surrounded by a wooden pallisade, thin wisps of smoke rise up above the fence, no doubt from hearth fires inside. Ozuchi falls to his knees thanking the spirits for the blessing of a village, “Assuming that smoke doesn’t mean it’s been burnt down” says the sobering voice of Benito from just by his shoulder as the rest of the party catches up.

Suddenly Benito and Horesh hear a strange snuffling, snorting noise coming from within the boundaries of the nearby Great Forest, they have only just left Celtia and are still close to the mighty wooded area that blankets the savage nation like a living tide; ever wary Benito draws his sword, the sound of the metal sliding free from his scabbard alerting Ozuchi to the potential danger. Before they have time to consider further planning the undergrowth begins to move with furious activity; Horesh backs away from the treeline whilst Ozuchi drops into a martial stance as something huge and strong ploughs it’s way through the undergrowth, charging towards them. Thinking quickly Ozuchi calls on his komodo spirit to armour against harm as a huge boar smashes out of the nearby treeline, shakes it’s head and then prepares to charge; Horesh begins slowly backing away as Benito scrambles up a nearby rocky outcropping and Ozuchi prepares to leap if the creature gets near him. Hearing the sound of the pebbles dislodged by Benito’s frantic scrambling the boar charges towards the rock that he is perched upon. Benito leaps off the rock that he is clinging to and lands on the back of the huge bristled creature, he reachs forwards, grabs the tusks of the mighty boar and begins twisting the creature’s head to one side, trying to distract it from charging his companions.

With the creature distracted, Ozuchi springs forward, striking the boar in a weak spot on it’s skull with a mighty kick; there is a loud crack and the creature ploughs into the ground, neck broken, Benito leaping off as it slides along digging a furrow with it’s carcass. As this is going on Horesh becomes aware that there is still some slight movement within the treeline, he steps into the trees, remaining cautious, and comes across a small clearing where there are 5 infant boars, he shakes his head and returns to the others, gesturing for them to follow he shows them where the baby boars are located. The death priest feels quite guilty that they may have slain the mother of these creatures whereas Ozuchi, being more used to hunting on the stygian savannah and raising the young of hunted animals as domestic stock, looks at the young animals solely as potential food or trade stock, whereas Benito and Horesh seem captivated by the idea of training these beasts as mounts. Horesh attempts to examine the spirit of the beast but it has already fled (animal spirits not tending to linger) but he does sense an after-image of anger and maternal instincts, he suggests that there might have been something nearby that had already roused the mother boars protective instincts and that they should remain wary.

After a bit of a debate, Benito and Horesh decide to adopt one of the piglets each and to take the rest as trade or provisions, Ozuchi shakes his head in bewilderment but reluctantly agrees before pulling his dagger and swiftly beginning to skin, de-tusk and butchering the body of the dead boar; the norsican barbarian Kron seems entirely bewildered by the argument going on, but then norsicans are not known for their love of animals (besides as skins to wear or meat to eat). Benito picks up a couple of piglets, Horesh carries one (selecting a black piglet with a white spot) and, after being asked to help by Benito, the bewildered Kron picks up the other two, shaking his head. Ozuchi gives thanks to the spirit for the bounty of pigflesh and piglets to trade that they have blessed the party with, and they continue their journey towards the village.

Arriving near the open-fronted wooden pallisade they can see numerous small wooden buildings erected around a central large hall; a ragged, malnourished figure bursts from the entrance of the gate, cradling a hessian sack under his arm, the figure runs towards them and virtually collapses into Ozuchi’s arms saying “I can’t… please don’t let them get me…”, he swoons almost fainting away. Benito takes the bag and peers in side, it contains little more than a couple of loaves and some bundles of grain, before he has chance to consider what this means, Benito’s attention is attracted by the sound of marching feet and a unit of soldiers wearing metal armour and lead by a serious looking figure march out of the village. Not liking the look of the events unfolding Horesh quickly removes his robe and slips it onto the bedraggled villager before the soldiers have time to spot him and Ozuchi runs forward to meet the emerging soldiers, pointing off into the distance and hoping to mislead them as to the whereabouts of their suspected quarry he says “A man just ran into those trees carrying a bag, is that who you are after?”

Seeming convinced by Ozuchi’s fabrications, the commander introduces himself as Aedelred and says that they are pursuing the criminal Dudda, Ozuchi repeats that they saw him running off into the nearby forest; nodding Aedelred says that they will surely be welcome, however, he points at Kron and says that “well, almost all of you will be welcome” – he explains the group that the northman is not well loved in Saxony since the King has gone north to crusade against the rising northern warlords, he describes the norsicans as a plague waiting to sweep away civilisation. Ozuchi is able to persuade the soldiers that Kron no longer considers himself linked with the raiding norsicans and will cause no trouble, Kron turns over his hammers as surety of his conduct and, with Ozuchi vouching for him, Commander Aedelred agrees to allow the norsican into the settlement of Wulfricingas. One of Aedelred’s men called Deorwine seems personally affronted by Aedelred’s decision to allow Kron into the village and makes his objection known; Aedelred commands him to be silent and apologises to our heroes, explaining that Deorwine recently received news that his brother was slain in King Godric’s crusade against the northmen. Unable to accompany them at present due to his pursuit of the criminal Dudda, Aedelred assigns one of his men Oed to escort them inside.

Oed leads the heroes into the village, he mentions that Lord Wulfric is ill and may not be able to speak to them but he will take them to the chiefs hut; when Ozuchi mentions that he is a reknowned medicine man in Stygia and that he may be able to help, this interests Oed a great deal and he leads them to the large wooden hut in the middle of the village. Oed bangs on the door asking to be let in, saying that he has a medicine man to see Lord Wulfric, a female voice responds saying that the Lord is much too ill to see any foreigners with his snake-oil and charms; it is only when Oed threatens to break down the door that the women (whom he refers to as Ceolwyn) agrees to let them in.

Upon entering the large hall they can see a bed covered in many furs where a tall man with a long beard and wasted, grayish pallor lies looking almost dead, they are met by a determined looking woman who is skeptical about Ozuchi’s abilities, but weakly Lord Wulfric gestures that he gives permission for Ozuchi to examine him. Nodding Ozuchi asks what treatment Lord Wulfric has received, Ceolwyn indicates a clear solution on a nearby table and says that she has been adminstering a solution of local herbs to bring down his fever; Benito notices a look of panic on Ceolwyn’s face when Ozuchi begins examining the tonic, but before he can do anything a huge warrior with black hair and holding an axe gripped threateningly in one hand dashes in and in angry tones demands to know what is going on. Coelwyn speaks to the man (who she calls Anlaf) and explains what is occurring, again Benito notices the edge of panic in her voice.

Ozuchi attempts to speak to Anlaf, who seems oddly unwilling to listen to him and eventually attempts to punch the stygian, but he is too quick though and rocks back on his feet before delivering a rapid series of blows that cause the saxon warrior to crumple to the floor unconscious; now free of distraction Ozuchi lifts a tiny portion of the tonic to his lips and judges it to be mostly sugar water, but there is an acrid toxic taste lurking beneath it that his trained tastebuds detect. Seeing Ozuchi’s expression and realising that the game is up, Ceolwyn draws a hidden dagger from her belt and, holding it out, tells them to let her go and that no-one needs to get hurt. Benito attempts to restrain the woman but she delivers him a vicious headbutt to the face, staggering back and shouting for Ozuchi to take her out whilst Kron moves to secure the unconscious saxon warrior and cut off any escape, Benito takes a step backwards with blood pouring from his nose.

Not wanting to do the woman serious harm (and lose their only conscious source of information), Ozuchi deftly flicks the knife from Ceolwyn’s hand and twists her arm up behind her back whilst Horesh fetches a rope and restrains her; weeing her husband captured and held by Kron and Oed, Ceolwyn breaks down and reveals that her husband Anlaf told her to help him poison Lord Wulfric or he would beat her, but that if she did so the Regent would make them the rulers of the village after Wulfric was dead. Oed tells them that the Regent is the brother of King Godric, a man called Eadweard Harcourt who has been left in charge of the kingdom whilst Godric is on his crusade in the north; but he has no idea why the Regent would want Wulfric dead, Ceolwyn answers that she doesn’t know, Anlaf spoke to the Regent, not her, she attempts to plead for leniency and offers proof of what she is saying by telling them to search Anlaf’s belt pouch. When Kron does so he finds a red seal in the shape of a stylised spear, Oed confirms that the spear is Aelfgar, symbol of the Harcourt family.

Ozuchi has been ministering to Lord Wulfric and says that he can help him but it will take a couple of days for the poison to leave his system; Lord Wulfric weakly thanks them and says that they must sleep in his hall as guests of honour, he orders Oed to take Anlaf and Ceolwyn from his sight and to have them confined under guard. Horesh approaches the Lord and speaks to him about the criminal Dudda, he explains that the man was starving and shows the meagre contents that were inside the satchel, Wulfric sighs and explains that the Regent has been squeezing them for more and more taxes and that he is honour bound to obey the ruler of Saxony, meaning that he has had to ask more from his people; however Lord Wulfric does tells them that, whilst he cannot tolerate crime and disloyalty, and nor can he defy Saxon law, when he is well he plans to host a great celebration that will require all his men at arms to cease pursuing any outlaws and attend. He assures them that anyone who returns to their home and commits no further crime will be forgiven, Wulfric also tells them that, although he cannot lower the taxes, he will have some of the personal provisions from his hall made available to lighten the burden on the peasants; smiling and looking at Horesh’s cloaked “apprentice” Wulfric passes back the sack containing the bread and tells them that that will do as a first contribution to lightening the tax load and that Horesh’s “apprentice” should return to his home.

Two days pass and Lord Wulfric is much recovered, true to his word he holds a great feast that sees the flamboyant Captain Benito seemingly trying to bed every woman in the village; even the death priest Horesh seems to get into the spirit of the celebration, relishing the chance to soak up a foreign culture. After the celebration has concluded Wulfric gathers the heroes to him and tells them that he would value their wise council, his interrogators have spoken to Anlaf and verified what Ceolwyn had told them, it appears that the Regent wants him dead for some reason, “Perhaps because I am loyal to his brother and not to him” muses Lord Wulfric.

The heroes say that they are going to travel to Winchester and perhaps they could attempt to negotiate with the Regent on his behalf; Wulfric says that, if the heroes are willing, he will travel with them (now his strength is recovered) and will make his case in person; agreeing they all part company to sleep, but Ozuchi is troubled as he meditates on the future, he speaks to the ancestors of Saxony and of the Harcourt dynasty; they show him a vision of a snow covered battlefield slain with blood, a king lies dead and a usurper seeks to consolidate his power, some claim loyalty to the new king whilst some remain loyal to the memory of the old, fire and war engulfs the kingdom of Saxony. The stygian tells the others of his troubling vision, it seems clear that the death of the old king and his brother the Regent’s grab for power will throw the nation into civil war.

Serpents Fall: Death in the Forest – Session 3

Thinking about recent events Ozuchi calls on the knowledge of his ancestral spirits and asks them “Where will the dark corsairs target next?” A whispered voice on the wind speaks to Ozuchi as a flock of seagulls take to the air and spiral around the stygian medicine man, the spirits of the air tell him that the dark corsairs will strike next on the western coast of Saxony; as Ozuchi relays the information and Horesh points out that it’s a very long journey, Gunnar rankles at the fact they can’t even take a boat due to Benito’s curse.
Meanwhile their captive, Captain Hannibal Hawkins, observes them from where he is confined, Benito says that he’s going to interrogate him and asks for aid from the rest of the party; feeling unsettled with the notion of interrogation and possible torture of an enemy who cannot fight back, Gunnar sits in to make sure that no dishonourable methods will be used to extract information from their captive. Hannibal Hawkins, is a bald, weather-beaten man who obviously mucks in with his crew and is used to feeling the lash of the elements as he works on deck, he breathes in sharply as he is ungagged since the gag restricted him breathing through his mouth and his nose was still bloody from the fight, he spits on the ground at Benito’s feet.
“It is good to see you” says Benito, attempting to remain conversational
“The feeling is not mutual, how do you come to be here? I was told you were dead – better for you if you were” spits Hawkins
“I’m Captain Benito, you can’t kill me, how do you think I came to become pirate king?” asked Benito glibly
“I don’t know, i’m more an expert on how easy it was to depose you” replies Hawkins with a spluttering cackle
“Cutting, but you’re not really in a position to make insults are you, bound as you are on your own ship that we’ve taken from under your feet?” says Benito
“How do you think the real pirate king will respond when he realises you’re alive?”
“He’ll prob piss his pants and get someone else to deal with it, like he normally does” said Benito with bravado
“Things have changed, there’s a new order in the Sword Isles Benito”
“Who?” asked Benito
“Captain Blythe, he has promised to return the Sword Isles to a position of rulership over the world, as it was before Atlantis sank”
“He’s taking his time”
“Only a fool rushes his plans, as you should know”
Benito asks Hawkins where they were taking the slaves to be sold and Hawkins says that they weren’t selling them to anyone and that he was buying, not selling; they were providing herbs & spices to the Picts in return for the slaves since some of the ingredients are hard to get on the mainline, but the more tropical environment on the Sword Isles are ideal for growing them. Hawkins says that he doesn’t know why the pirate king wants the slaves since he doesn’t reveal his plans to Hawkins.
“So he’s not revealed his plans to you, that is a quite intelligent move on his behalf, for once” says Benito, his opinion of the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe obvious in his expression
Hawkins refuses to say anything further, Kron picks him up and carries the beaten pirate lord to the brig of his own ship, securing him soundly in the brig; Gunnar says that, before they deal with any thoughts of what is going on in the Sword Isles, they need to get the survivors back to their village, but before they depart Benito renders the ship unsailable without a few hours work re-tying all of the ropes and supports that he has undone.
Moving back through the tunnels, Horesh becomes aware of his spirit companion as he moves within range and that the villagers are still okay; they enter the cavern leading the survivors from the ship and the young girl Keira is re-united with her mother Kayla, both breaking down in tears of happiness. Gunnar says that they should escort the people back to the remnants of their village and make sure there’s enough for them to survive.
The party begins leading the group of malnourished villagers through the darkness of the Great Forest, Horesh and Gunnar moving carefully whilst Ozuchi and Benito moving ahead quickly, scouting out the way ahead of the group. Ozuchi becomes aware of dark shapes moving just behind the treeline, quietly seeking to surround the party and briefly sees crouched human figures with dimly glowing eyes; he holds his hand up to indicate to the rest of the party that he has seen something and then leaps into the thick foliage of the treeline.
Benito draws his weapon, Kron does likewise whilst moving up to take a defensive position besides the villagers, Horesh draws his daggers; Ozuchi dives towards what he thought was the light glinting off one of the pictish blades, but he finds that it is actually a decoy, a blade deliberately stuck into the tree so as to reflect the light, before he can retreat the stygian feels a jagged flint blade stabbed into him. Captain Benito hears Ozuchi crying a pained oath in stygian, he attempts to assess the situation but can only see silhouettes running through the trees a short distance off; yo Benito the enemies move so silently that they seem less like people and more like spirits of the woods, he has heard tales of the Picts and how they worship strange unclean spirits and perform ceremonies seeking to make them like unto spirits themselves.
Horesh sends his familiar raven spirit into the air so that, via his spiritual link with it, he can get a birds-eye view of the situation; the picts are skillfully blending into the forest (almost supernaturally so) but, sharing the senses of his familiar Horesh can see a pict fighting with Ozuchi, two are closing on himself and Kron whilst a third is drawing near to Benito. Horesh relays what he has seen to Kron; using this information Gunnar strides across the clearing and attacks as a pict rushes out of the undergrowth, the warrior is clearly taken aback that the norsican has seen through his camouflage and Kron swings his hammer at his opponent. The warrior manages to throw itself to one side, avoiding the blow although it drops its knife in the process.
As the warrior fighting Ozuchi prepares to attack, the stygian shaman sees that his opponent seems to be in the grip of the hallucinogenic woad, almost as though looking through him, the look is similar to someone viewing the spirit world; the stygian summons his komodo dragon spirit to join with him, his skin briefly becoming scaley and rough, and easily able to turn aside the knife attack of the pictish warrior. Sparks spray into the air as the pictish knife glances harmlessly off Ozuchi’s skin. Benito runs forwards to help out Ozuchi as he sees the shower of sparks shortly ahead of him, he is taken by surprise when from the undergrowth besides him another warriors bursts out of the foliage, slamming Benito down to the floor and jabbing a thin flint knife into his ribs.
Horesh thinks about running to help Benito but realises that he would be leaving Kron and the villagers at the mercy of two warriors, so he holds his position as another warrior emerges into the clearing; seeing the spirit-stare of the approaching warrior, Horesh briefly wonders if the effects of the hallucinogenic woad goes far deeper then they had previously thought, but he doesn’t have much time to think about it as the pict moves to attack.
Looking for a weakness in his enemy, Horesh takes advantage of his opponents drugged state as he ducks under the blow of the warrior and jabs his twin sacrifical knives into the underside of the pict’s skull who gurgles and topples to the floor dead. Kron leaps to the side of the remaining crouching warrior, as the warrior glances over at his companion meeting an end on the sharp blades of Horesh’s knives, the norsican swings his hammer down, impacting squarely with the pict and slaying him. Further up ahead Ozuchi, still engaged in combat, strikes his opponent in the chest and then, in an impressive display of stygian martial arts, flips the pictish warrior so that his body falls onto his own decoy-weapon, killing him.
Benito pushes off the warrior rolling around with him and, grabbing some of the hanging vines, attempts to swing clear but the pict grabs him and stabs the ex-pirate king in the neck; the warrior leaps clear of Benito’s return blow, scuttling halfway up a tree with it’s flint knife gripping between it’s teeth. Hearing the noises and cries from up ahead Horesh concentrates on the spirit world, summoning a lesser spirit of the forest to aid his companion whilst, being reluctant to leave the villagers, Kron lets out a loud norsican battle-cry in an attempt to distract whatever picts are still fighting; he feels a bestial presence briefly enter his body, making his cry reverberate around the forest as the spirits summoned by Horesh re-inforce his action.
The warrior fighting Benito is scared by the unholy sound, a fearful look entering his eyes; Ozuchi meanwhile runs back into the clearing to where Horesh and Kron are protecting the villagers. The pict leaps from the trees at Benito, his knife held high but Benito neatly sidesteps the attack, avoiding it, spins around and stabs his sword into the chest of the warrior, bringing him a quick death. The forest once again fall quiet, the echo of Kron’s mighty roar still fading slowly, Benito searches the body of the fallen warrior and takes his flint blade from him.
Thinking about the stares of the picts, Ozuchi summons up his ancestral spirits and asks them to reveal to him, what sort of spirit power the pictish warriors are using; all of the birds filling the trees turn to look at Ozuchi, and amongst their cawing, a voice says “The warriors call upon blasphemous creatures of the Outer Darkness, they are not of the spirit world.”
Ozuchi explains to the others that the anient almost mythical empire of Atlantis trafficked with spirits from the Outer Darkness and it destroyed their empire, Benito wondered whether that was what Horiningold Blythe was up to. Benito explains to the others about how the Inner Sea used to be Atlantis, and that the landmass sank after they meddled in forbidden magic creating the Inner Sea and the Sword Isles; most of the atlanteans and their slaves the lemurians were killed but some of their bloodline continued in the modern world, Benito himself has lemurian blood. Benito says that he needs to go home to stop whatever Blythe is up to, but that he can’t do so with the curse still hanging over him; Kron asks Ozuchi and Horesh if they can break the curse and Ozuchi, thinking for a moment, says that the curse is permanent must be extremely powerful and that someone of equal or greater power would be required to remove it.
Ozuchi tells his companions that the more information he has about how the curse was cast, the better; Benito suggests that, one they have made the villagers safe, they return to Hannibal Hawkins and see if he knows anything about it.
Arriving at the burnt out remnants of the village, a number of the survivors break down weeping when they see the dead bodies and the ruins of their former home; both Ozuchi and Gunnar find the experience quite moving, Ozuchi because his home village was destroyed, and Gunnar because he destroyed many such villages before he saw a way to a more honourable life. Feeling a little uncomfortable Benito removes himself from the situation and begins wandering through the wreckage; in the treeline he spots a large flat leafed plant called Arrowleaf that he remembers being used as a ships spice by one of his cooks, he tries a bit and finds it has a peppery taste and has a little heat to it. Benito picks some, planning to dry and grind it and put it in a pouch so it can be thrown in an opponents face to distract them.
Ozuchi goes to begin preparing graves but Kron stops him and suggests it may be better to make a funeral pyre; Ozuchi sells the villagers on the idea of the pyre and they agree to help build it whilst Horesh begins to delicately broach the subject of last rites. Ozuchi suggests to the villagers that they use the ashes of their dead to fertilise the land, blessing it, and keeping the spirits of the dead with them; Horesh leads them in a simple khemrian death prayer as Ozuchi and Kron place the bodies on the pyre, the villagers seem more at peace and have a renewed determination to rebuild their lives and their village. The villagers make some temporary lean to shelters and sit around a fire telling stories about those they have lost, saying that the group will always be welcome in their village.
Calling on his experience of the norsican tradition of oral storytelling, Kron tells a tale of a saxon settlement of the northern edge of Saxony, which was one of the first to be raided by the northern tribes before the horse people existed as a buffer between the two nations. In the story, there were many norsicans who gave into their anger and bestial sides, becoming something more and less than human, becoming berserkers who could shift their shapes into monstrous creatures. Despite their strength these individuals were cast out when their comrades saw the depravities that had been wreaked on this village by the deviants, for the deviants could not stand up against the pure of heart. Kron tells the villagers that they are pure of heart and no evil, no setbacks, can prevent them from rebuilding their village and story, the only thing that can is their own fear.
Horesh leaves his familiar on lookout whilst they all go to sleep. Gunnar Kron awakes first and is helping the villagers move the larger pieces of rubble ready for the rebuilding project; Ozuchi looks around to make sure there is no danger but, given that the picts seem to prefer attacking under cover of darkness, there is little sign of any trouble. Benito approaches Ozuchi as he awakes and says that, noble as helping the villagers is, there is a much larger issue and they should perhaps press on with their efforts to halt whatever nefarious scheme Blythe has afoot; Ozuchi agrees and rounds up the rest of the party, they make their way back to the burial mound and through the tunnels to the small bay where Captain Hawkins is still confined on his ship.
Benito asks Horesh to conjure some spirits to lend support to their attempts to intimidate information out of Captain Hawkins; as they move down the scree slope towards the waters edge, above the sound of tumbling rocks, Horesh hears a human scream coming from inside the boat, he shouts to the others and they break into a run towards the boat. Benito and Kron get to the boat first and jump aboard, drawing weapons and running towards the brig; Kron leaps through the trapdoor drawing his hammer whilst Benito grabs some hanging rigging and swings down after him pulling out his sword.
Hannibal Hawkins is being held up by his throat by a figure of living shadow that is throttling the life out of him; without pause Kron hurls his hammer at the strange, dark elongated figure, it strikes home causing it to drop Hawkins onto the deck. Benito draws his sword and attempts to begin negotiating saying “Now we have your attention”; as it turns towards Kron, part of the oily surface peals back to reveal a skull like head/face. It raises a skeletal hand towards Kron and begins to slowly close it’s fist, the norsican feels an increasing pressure on his heart and cries out in pain as he clasps his chest; Benito’s sword flashes out, aiming for the creatures outstretched arm, it screams and the skull collapses back into the oiley mass of it’s body, although it continues moving.
Horesh drops into the chamber and instantly recognises it as a manifested death spirit that has been summoned and empowered by someone to act as their assassin, he slices out with his daggers, striking the creature, the skeletal hands collapse back into the mass leaving just an amorphous black, thrashing blob that lashes out at Horesh; the khemrian death priest nimbly sidesteps the attack. Bereft of his hammer, Kron glances around and then grabs a barrel before smashing it down on the huge blob, it screams and lies still, before it slowly begins to fade away.
Kron rushes over to Hawkins and sits him up as Ozuchi arrives in the brig, the stygian medicine man examines Hawkins crushed throat; Benito tells Hawkins that, since they’ve saved his life and if he cooperates, they’ll help him, Hawkins nods in response. They give him water and Ozuchi applies some medicinal herbs to help sooth the inflammation of his throat; on a suggestion from Benito they take Hawkins upstairs so that he can take in some of the healthy sea air, this seems to revive him somewhat.
“That thing would seem to have been sent by Blythe since he must have realised that you’ve not been successful” says Benito to the bedraggled pirate as he once again becomes capable of talking, his throat soothed somewhat
“The pirate king does not tolerate failure” splutters Hawkins. Meanwhile Horesh tells them that a lot of power must have been used to allow the spirit to manifest at such a distance, but that the spirit itself was only a lesser spirit; Benito tells Hawkins he needs all the information he has on the curse.
Hawkins tells him that a short time before Benito was deposed that Blythe recovered something from the shores of the Inner Sea, and it was afer that he first started talking about his new world order and making arrangements to overthrow Benito, shortly after this he began to negotiate with the pictish tribes; all Hawkins knows is that the slaves are apparently essential to usher in Blythe’s new age of atlantean supremacy. He tells Benito that somehow Blythe used the blood of lemurians to lay the curse and that the solution might also lie within that blood, Ozuchi nods and says that they need to find some more lemurian and that their best chance for this is to head for a larger settlement to see if they can find an other people with lemurian blood.
To prove he is a better king than Blythe, Benito returns Hawkin’s ship to him on the understanding that he no longer traffic in human lives or have dealings with those who use black magic; Benito threatens to hunt him down if he breaks this bargain and tells him to let people know that the true pirate king still lives, Hawkins agrees. After a short discussion the group decide to head to one of the larger cities of Saxony, and begin heading towards the capitol city of Winchester.

Serpents Fall: The Darkness Beneath – Session 2

Horesh leads the group through the darkness of Celtia’s Great Forest, following the strands of death energy ahead of him, Ozuchi follows behind, his eyes darting over the varied vegetation of the Great Forest, occasionally he pauses to pluck some herbs and roots that he thinks might help with his healing arts. The trees they pass are huge and ancient, having been there for many years before they were born and will no doubt be there long after their deaths; the ground, covered in moss, rises into a burial mound or Tor infront of them. Horesh snaps out of his spirit-trance as they reach the burial mound seen in his vision, he is momentarily disorientated but is re-assured when Gunnar and Ozuchi tell him that he’s bought them to the place where the savage warriors may have come from.
Kron and Ozuchi begin searching the area for tracks and, a few moments later, Ozuchi gives a shout as he spots a concealed wooden entrance to the burial mound covered with moss, Kron congratulates him on a job well done as he pulls the concealing wooden slats aside; the wood covers a tunnel entrance heading down underground at a roughly 45-degree angle, Kron steps forward, hefting his hammer and saying “I’ll lead.”
Inside, the tunnel is narrow, only allowing them to move in single file but they make there way forwards with Kron leading, followed by Ozuchi, Horesh and with Benito bringing up the rear; the peat laden soil is damp and it is dark and cold within the tunnel. Kron keeps a hand on the wall to steady himself and maintain his position, he has them all place a hand on each other’s shoulder to keep the party together should anything unexpected occur. 
Eventually the tunnel widens out into a cavern lined with glowing moss that casts a dim blue light; despite their attempts to remain quiet as they move further into the barrow mound the group are a little bit noisey due to not being able to really see where they are putting their feet. Entering the cavern they can hear a faint sobbing and Kron sees a large cage built of vines and local wood, inside he can just see a number of huddled figures; the norsican warrior peers closer hoping that these are the captives from the small village, unable to see the people clearly Captain Benito hacks a small sheet of the glowing moss from the wall, it dims slightly but still casts light. Benito throws the glowing moss into the cage and, in the increased light, the party can see that there are three women and a couple of children (one male, one female) in the cage, all are malnourished and emaciated.
With the light from the moss fading quickly, Ozuchi looks around and spots a second tunnel leading out of the cavern in an eastern direction; Kron approaches the cage, planning to share his rations with the prisoners, recognising that Kron has the look of a norsican raider the feeble people panic and try to scramble away from him despite his attempts to speak softly with them; realising that he isn’t helping the situation, Kron steps back away. Benito suggests releasing them, thinking that they’ll be able to survive on their own, however Kron points out that, in their weakened states, they may be easy prey for the creatures of the forest; the norsican throws some of his bread ration towards the people and slowly, hunger overwhelming their fear, they move forward and start eating the bread.
Ozuchi asks Benito to keep an eye on the eastern exit from the cage, whilst he slices some moss from the wall and begins to wring moisture from it to quench the thirst of the captives, having eaten and drank a little they begin to regain a little of their colour. Captain Benito smells something strange, an odd, smokey, herblike odour drifting down the eastern tunnel that he stands next to, he moves to stand beside the tunnel entrance so that he can be hidden from view should anyone emerge from the eastern tunnel, there is a loud crunch from beneath his feet, and he looks down to see he’s standing in a shallow recess full of human bones. Benito examines the bones and sees they are recent and appear to have be scored by flint tools that stripped the flesh from them; he shouts to the others that the savages may be cannibals.
Horesh removes his hood and steps forward to speak to the bedraggled villagers, they begin screaming and attempting to scramble to the far side of the cave from Horesh with even more violence than their reaction to Kron; Kron and Benito recognise the look of absolute fear on the eyes of the panicked villagers as Horesh backs off. Benito steps forward and, comforted by Ozuchi’s medicinal skills, the villagers engage him in conversation; one of the children (a blue eyed, young girl with red hair & dry tear tracks down her cheeks) runs towards Benito and accepts some food from him, she asks him whether or not he has seen her mother (describing her as tall with red hair). Benito trys to comfort the child, who explains that her mother was taken by “the men” down the eastern tunnel and that the men have been taking villagers down the tunnel at intervals, they have heard horrible noises, screaming and laughter from down the tunnel.
Trying to establish why the people panicked at Horesh’s presence Ozuchi mentions the word Khemri but they don’t appear to respond, Benito asks the young girl why they were scared of Horesh, she apologises and says that they thought he was one of the dark men who have been taking them away; Kron feels anger growing inside him at the thought of these warriors preying on innocent women and children who cannot fight back, he says that there might still be survivors and that, if they were taken down the tunnel, then that’s where the party needs to go.
Kron opens the cage whilst Benito advises the villagers that it might be in their best interest to wait until they return so that they can guide them back in safety; the young girl appears to have taken a bit of a shine to Benito and the villagers agree to wait. Horesh leaves his familiar raven behind, relying on his spiritual link with it to inform him should the villagers face any future peril, and they begin to continue their exploration with Horesh now in the lead.
The herby, smokey smell begins to grow stronger and more pungent as they move further down the darkening tunnel, Kron speculates that perhaps the savages are sacrificing the villagers in some sort of religious ceremony; as the smoke thickens the party pull strips of cloth over their noses, unfortunately the fumes catch Ozuchi by surprise and his pupils dilate as he begins to feel the effects of the strange narcotic fumes come over him, causing the shadows and drips of water to form into dancing, geometric shapes. Benito wraps a piece of cloth around the dazed Ozuchi’s face to prevent him inhaling further fumes as the sound of distant drumming reaches their ears from further down the tunnel.
Benito looks at the others, saying “Should we get ready for a fight boys?”
“I’m always ready, I was born ready,” responds Kron gruffly.
The tunnel splits in two with the smell of the fumes far stronger from one of the tunnels, travelling down it (with Horesh moving a bit ahead) the tunnel opens into a side chamber, there is a flickering fire in the chamber and sat around it are are three savage black, woaded tribesmen; two of them are muscley warriors whilst the third is a scrawny, wiry figure wearing a rams skull atop his head. The thin figure is tattooing one of the warriors with a strange oily black substance being melted in the fire, the design is a strange intricate geometric one.
Horesh heads back to the group and explains what is occurring, he then peers into the spirit world and perceives the spirits of maddening fury that populate the tunnels, he summons a spirit that resembles a skeletal man but with an animals skeletal head and persuades it to aid them in their fight agaist the savages. Kron charges forwards into the cavern, hefting his hammer and growling a savage norse war-cry; in response the shaman reaches a hand into the embers of the fire and blows a handful of ash and dust into the charging vikings face. Briefly Kron feels like someone is exerting pressure on his skull and mind, but he shrugs it off the sorcerors mental attack, leaps the fire, grabs the shaman and crushes his head against the wall with his hammer.
Still under the effect of the fumes Ozuchi engages the warrior who easily evades his inebriated attack but is unable to land a blow on him, Benito swaggers across to the same warrior and, as the warrior swings at Ozuchi, lops his arm off and then slices his throat, the warrior topples dead into the fire. The remaining warrior leaps at Captain Benito but the pirate manages to avoid his attack, Ozuchi attempts to take out the warrior with his stygian martial arts but the influence of the fumes has slowed him and the warrior avoids his attack, pulling a burning log from the fire and swinging at him.
Ozuchi’s komodo dragon spirit and the skeletal figure that Horesh negotiated with earlier grab hold of the warrior as he swings, pulling him backwards and meaning that only a slight blow lands on Ozuchi; Horesh pulls out his twin ceremonial daggers and, being skilled with the ceremonial death knives, delivers a vicious slash to the warriors midriff. As the warrior steps sideays to avoid further cuts from Horesh, Gunnar Kron steps inside his guard and smashes his hammer into the savage’s ribcage, throwing him across the cavern where he slides to the floor dead.
With the fight over Benito searches the shaman and finds that he is holding a long antler/bone needle with a reservoir carved into it that contains some of the thick black substance; near the fire is a carved wooden bowl also containing some of the black ichor, the scent they have been smelling emanates from it; Benito takes the needle and looks at Ozuchi who is slowly starting to recover himself, he asks him to examine the substance in the bowl. Ozuchi believes it to be a narcotic mixture of poisonous berries, herbs and snake venom – it’s a dilute poison that, in the correct dose, causes hallucination and makes the taker immune to pain.
Kron looks over the bodies of the warriors, thinking that perhaps they are from the village and were mind-controlled, one of them does look similar to the locals whilst the other looks vaguely norsican; Gunnar lays them to rest and whispers an apology to their gods since he was forced to kill them and that they didn’t know what they were doing. Horesh uses his spiritual connection with his familiar and finds that the villagers left back in the initial cave still seem to be fine; the group returns to the other passageway and begin exploring it, the wall of the cave begins to become more damp with thin rivulets of water dripping down the walls as they move further down it. The khemrian death-priest realises that they must be travelling underneath the Spiritwood river that rivers eastwards through the Great Forest of Celtia.
As they continue moving Captain Benito gets a strange stomach churning feeling as they draw closer to the Inland Sea and recognises the effects of his curse; the feeling grows as they move down the tunnel, as he mentions his feeling Ozuchi urges them to press on and reluctantly Benito agrees. Kron grunts and says “We have to press on, there may be survivors,” Benito agrees but urges caution, worried about the stability of the tunnel given the weight of water on top of them. As he starts feeling progressively works Benito pulls out the tattoo needle and asks Ozuchi whether or not the stygian medicine man believes that he could safely dose him with a small dose of the hallucinogen in order to counteract (temporarily) his curse.
Ozuchi administers the poison and Benito feels slightly fatigued from the effects, but there is at least some relief from the feeling of nauseous bought on by his curse. The group emerge from a cave mouth into a small, sheltered bay partway up a scree slope on the southeast shore of Celtia where it meets the Inner Sea; a storm is raging out at sea, but the weather in the bay itself is curiously calm, a small ship bobs up and down on the waters of the bay.
Horesh hears the sound of movement from within the bay and peers out of the cave mouth, he sees a couple of the savage warriors herding some ragged villagers towards the gangplank up onto the ship; a black robed corsair beckons for them to be bought onboard. As he emerges Benito notices that the flag on the ship flies the flag of the Black Eye, emblem of Captain Hannibal Hawkins – an atlantean descended pirate who was one of the first to flock to Blythe’s banner and call for Benito’s overthrow. With his knowledge of ships Benito estimates that the pinnace could be crewed by up to 60 men and has a compliment of ten cannons – Benito shouts this to them as they scramble down the slope towards the ship.
The crew of the ship spot the group, the five cannons facing them are craned upwards and fire at them, a cannonball impacts near Benito and Ozuchi spraying them with razor shards of rock that slice their flesh whilst another glances Horesh’s arm causing it to fall limply by his side with a sickening crunch; Gunnar Kron is struck a glancing blow by one of the cannonballs tearing the beach to shreds around him and lets out an irritated howl as he hefts his hammer and continues running towards the boat. The crew on the boat begin to reload the cannons as the group run towards them; Ozuchi sprints across the beach, dodging the two warriors, running into the surf to the bottom of the gangplank, Benito follows after him shouting “Get inside the range of the cannons, they won’t be able to shoot us!”
Kron runs towards the warriors but his anger at the recent cannonball strike causes him to over-extend himself and the savage lashes out, slicing into Kron with a razor-sharp flint knife, whilst Horesh begins to summon one of the spirits of the water, offering it a future favour in return for it’s aid. The two warriors turn on Gunnar Kron, drawing their flint knives, but Kron easily avoids their blows. On the ship Ozuchi knocks a load of barrels over, the cannoneers let out a cry and begin to stumble over the rolling barrels; capitalising on this Benito leaps up onto the railing, cuts a rope and swings across the deck, slicing a mans throat before landing on a barrel and pedalling it across the deck. Stabbing out with his sword, Benito makes short work of the ten cannoneers on this side of the deck, the ten on the other side begin reaching for their weapons.
Distracted by the pain of his arm, Horesh is unable to land a blow on the warrior attacking Kron; as the warrior leaps forward, knife raised, to attack Horesh, Kron leans forward and swings his hammer, catching the warrior in the stomach and killing him. The remaining savage moves to attack Kron but the seaweed and water seems to bubble and come alive around him, pulling the savage back and causing his blow to miss Kron as the spirit of the water makes it’s presence felt. Ozuchi leaps up and swings one of the ships sails towards the remaining cannoneers, as they duck to avoid it Benito snags one of the ropes from the sails and swings past them, slaying four of the cannoneers; the remaining warrior fighting in the surf deftly avoids the blows aimed at him by Horesh and Kron.
The surviving six cannoneers attempt to pull Benito down from the rope he is holding and stab him, but the flamboyant Captain pushes off, swinging the sail back over to the other side of the deck and carrying him away from his assailants; dropping into a martial arts stance, Ozuchi manages to hold his own as the cannoneers surround him, their weight of numbers begin to show however and they slowing start dragging down the stygian medicine man.
As the weight of his injuries are starting to show on Kron, Horesh leaps on the remaining warrior and stabs his knife into the man’s skull, killing him; Kron nods and begins limping up the gangplank.
Benito grabs one of the torches from a now abandoned cannon as he swings back onto the deck and hurls it at one of the robed cannoneers, catching his clothing on fire; capitalising on this distraction Ozuchi dispatches the remaining cannoneers using his knowledge of Stygia martial arts, flipping them into the water. Captain Benito begins looking for the captain of the boat, meanwhile Horesh leads the surviving villagers out from where they have been hiding under the gangplank, he spots a woman with green eyes and red hair and explains that they have freed her daughter; the woman almost faints with happiness and relief.
Suddenly the trapdoor to the lower decks bursts open and a barrel chested man with a peg leg and tattoos across his arms, head and back strides through; Benito doesn’t recognise him personally but, due to the way that the man is carrying himself, he believes him to be the captain of the ship, the muscley figure bellows “You dare to trespass on my ship!”
Ever ready with a witty report Benito snaps back “Well i’m the king of the Scarlet Brotherhood so that makes it my ship,” before attempting to punch the muscular figure, it barely seems to phase him, and in response the man pulls out a belaying pin and smashes Benito in the face, bruising beginning to rise almost instantly on the injured pirate’s face. Ozuchi ducks under the Captain’s arm and jabs the poisoned needle into it, causing him to stagger slightly. Benito uses the pommel of his sword to push the needle further into the muscular Captain’s body, he remains standing, although he appears to be struggling; the Captain swings his belaying pin, it connects with Benito’s head and there is a sickening crunching of bone. Suddenly, from nowhere, Kron launches his hammer towards the mighty figure of the Captain, it strikes his shoulder and drives him down onto one knee; seizing the advantage Ozuchi leaps forward attempting to deliver an incapacitating blow but the Captain manages to roll out of the way.
Staggering, Benito drives his sword through the Captain’s shoulder, piercing flesh and pinning the hulking figure to the deck, knocking him out with a final elbow to the face; Benito nods, satisfied, before pausing to relieve him of a ruby signet ring with a dark imperfection in it (as well as the finger it was worn on).
With the threat removed Ozuchi begins trying to patch up his companions injuries; as he finishes the only injuries remaining are Benito’s patched up skull, Ozuchi’s cut arm and Kron’s bandaged skull. With their pain somewhat relieved the group search the ship and find numerous slaves of various extractions below deck, when freed they all tell the same tale of being taken captive by the Dark Corsairs (as they call them); as a final act of defiance Benito replaces the flag on the ship with his own pirate emblem.

Serpents Fall: Fires in Celtia – Session 1

As part of my effort to move the information on my Fate Accelerated fantasy S&S game Serpents Fall onto a tiddlywiki for ease of reference i’ve finally started typing up the session videos into a written form, presented below for people who are interested but don’t have time to watch the videos (or who just prefer written descriptions).
The original video of the session is split into three part.

As the sun begins to raise of the land of Serpents Fall, Ozuchi Komodo, shaman of a stygian tribe that had fallen to attack by norsican warriors, travelled through the lands of Celtia, at his side walked the muscular figure of Gunnar Kron, one of the very same warriors that had attacked his tribe; but something about the attack had not sat well with Gunnar and at the last minute he had changed his mind and now accompanied Ozuchi who, as a medicine-man could sense the huge norsican’s sincerity and desire to change. Ozuchi knew that Gunnar wanted to make amends for his past in the same way that he knew the khemrian death-priest Horesh Komani who accompanied them and was bent on mastering the mysteries of the bleak lands was estined to help him re-unite the fractured people of both their nations. Rounding off the group was the flamboyant figure of Captain Benito, a once Pirate King from the Sword Isles who had travelled to Stygia seeking respite from a curse that forever denied him the ability to sail upon the seas, although he had not found what he had sought, the pirate had found companionship in the three people he walked besides,
On the southern edge of celtia, just before the land was swallowed up by the Great Forest, Horesh (who had been feeling distinctly uncomfortable away from the dry, death saturated wastes of his home) sensed a familiar energy nearby, calling to his companions to alert them to the presence of death nearby somewhere he suggested that they investigate; Ozuchi summoned his familiar to him, a spirit in the shape of a komodo dragon and directed it to seek out the nearby death. As the spirit slithered away both Horesh and Ozuchi eagerly followed it whilst Gunnar and Benito, a little more skeptical regarding the ways of the spirits, followed along behind them, Benito hacking thin boughs out of the way with his sword. Suddenly Gunna paused as he smelt a familiar odour up ahead, the burning of wood, charred flesh and scorched straw and for a moment his mind flashed back to the many burning villages and homes that he had left in ruin behind him during his past as a bloody handed reaver; darting forward the viking warrior put out a hand to stop Ozuchi and Horesh, warning them that someone was sacking a village nearby and that they should go no further without a plan.
Horesh dispatches his own familiar, an imp in bird form, to fly ahead and investigate, it returns and informs it’s master that there are a number of burning buildings up ahead of them; hearing the news Ozuchi leads the party through the trees towards the increasing smell of smoke. As they enter a large clearing the the smell of blood and scorched flesh hangs heavy in the air, they can see a village of about eight roundhouses, it appears to have been burnt some times ago and now little more than embers remain. Benito hears a groan from one of the burning buildings, he indicates for the others to be quiet before carefully making his way towards the sound, he finds a young, muscular man lying on the floor surrounded by corpses, a flint headed spear impales him through the chest and a whistling of air from the injured man attests to a punctured lung. The man clutches the spear as though trying to pull it free but he has not got the strength and appears to not be long for this world, Benito gives the man a sip of water out of his flask and asks him what happened. Gasping through ruined lungs the man manages to them that they were attacked by some raiders from out of the trees and that they took the women and children before murdering everyone else; barely conscious the man tells them that the attackers were savages from the wood wearing strange black woad and that they fought like demons but that they were not the local celts.
Using his skills as a medicine man and, realising that the man is beyond saving, Ozuchi makes him as comfortable as he can whilst Horesh performs a funery rite over him, siphoning some of the death power into himself to strengthen him for the trials ahead; meanwhile Kron examines the other bodies and finds that the villagers are farmers and migrants from other nations rather than warriors. Benito examines the spear used to kill the man, he remembers legends from his time as king of the scarlet brotherhood (an organisation that has raised bragging and tall tales to an artform) when a drunken sailor told him about the dark corsairs, a terrifying spectral force of raiders clad in black cloth & covered in black tattoos. the mention of the tattoos in the tale seemed similar to the description of the savage attackers who razed the village; the spear is carved with runes rubbed with berry juice to stain them black, Benito takes a copy of them on a piece of parchment.
Kron explores the ruins of the village, reflecting on his past and how before he never had to see the aftermath of his bloody doings; he notices there are no woman and children amongst the dead, but some of the bodies have strange symbols carved into them, looking more closely he can see the bodies appear to have been laid out specifically after death for some reason he can’t divine, he returns to the others & reports his findings. Horesh sends his familiar flying up into the air to get a birdseye view of the bodies whilst the, ever financially motivated Benito, begins searching around for the village supply store; he eventually locates a burnt out hut containing bags of grains and seeds, all apparently untouched by the raiders.
As it begins getting dark, Ozuchi begins checking the perimeter of the village looking for footprints or any sign of the raiders, through his spirit companion he senses fear and trepidation and he glimpses shapes moving amongst the trees; suddenly a spear is hurled out of the darkness, slicing his arm and he lets out a cry in his native language; hearing the cry, Horesh signals to his familiar to find out what is wrong with Ozuchi and a few moments later it returns, flying into him, knocking Horesh off his feet, it looks terrified, the creature tells Horesh that they need to get out quickly. Horesh tells the others something evil occurring and, as he does so, Ozuchi runs back towards the rest of the party, his arm still leaking blood; Benito draws his saber, his eyes scanning the treeline, he can just glimpse pinpoints of red light amongst the trees, attempting to intimidate the people lurking in the trees, he neatly side-steps another thrown spear, chopping it in two with his saber.
Horesh and Kron are cut by spears thrown at them whilst Ozuchi narrowly ducks under the one thrown at him and dives into cover amongst the ruins, the khemrian death-priest Horesh calls on his knowledge of the spirit world and summons up a spectral flock of birds; as he begins to bargain for their aid, Gunnar Kron pulls himself up to his full height, drawing his two hammers and preparing for combat. Shadowy, savage figures begin stalking out of the trees, primitives clad in rough furs and their skin stained with black tattooing and woad, a dull red glow seems to emanate from their eyes; attuned to the spirit world Horesh & Ozuchi can perceive the dim red outline of a strange bat-like entity superimposed over the tribesmen. Benito flamboyantly steps out, his saber flashing, the primitives seem unimpressed and one of them lashes out with a flint dagger, slicing into Captain Benito’s flesh.
Horesh begins to negotiate with the flock spirit, he offers to owe it a favour if it will it will aid him in this battle; Horesh agrees and the flock spirit flutters into the combat area, filling it with flapping wings and distracting the savage primitives, seizing on this Kron seeks a morale advantage by targeting the lead tribesman (currently attacking Benito) and hurling one of his hammers at the savage, it strikes home, shattering the skull of the leader who collapses to the ground dead. Seeing their leader slain the other savages lose heart and begin fleeing back into the trees with the party in pursuit. Kron and Ozuchi catch up with a couple of the savages, Kron attempts to shoulder barge one into a tree but the primitive is too fast and escapes, leaving Kron holding a scrap of symbol inscribed fur. Ozuchi brings down his quarry with his stygian martial arts and, with the help of Kron, is able to restrain the freakishly strong savage.
With the savage tribesman restrained Horesh attempts to examine the red spirit lingering over him whilst the rest of the group attempt to interrogate the cursing savage, after Kron uses his hammer to shatter the kneecaps of the savage, Horesh senses that the red spirit is something strange and cold like nothing he’s ever felt before; breaking the connection Horesh warns the others that the savage is possessed by some kind of old, strange dark spirit. Ozuchi attempts to communicate with the savage, threatening that if he doesn’t take them to where the villagers are, Horesh will tear the spirit from him, sundering his soul; in halting common-tongue the warrior spits at Ozuchi saying that he lies, claiming that only Fidach can summon the spirits and give them their strength. Kron asks if fidach was the (now slain) leader, at which the warrior laughs and says that Fidach would not be slain by a mere hammer, frowning at this description of his mighty weapon, Kron smashes the man’s other kneecap. With a grim sense of resolve Horesh says “someone end his life and I will take the information we need from his escaping soul.”
Nodding, Kron tells the others to release their broken prisoner, who collapses on his broken legs; they watch in mounting horror as there is a series of crunching sounds and the warriors legs begin to snap back into their previous positions, not wanting to risk facing whatever devilry is at work here Kron slays the warrior brutally, upper-cutting him with his hammer. As the savage’s soul escapes to the afterlife, Horesh inhales the essence of the death and sees a series of images showing the rough location of their camp, inside a dark burial mound or tor in a dim part of the forest; he starts following the directions from his vision with the rest of the party behind him.

Handling Absent Players in Fate

Handling Absent Players in Fate
We’ve just gone through the lean winter months of RPing running up to Christmas when family events and real-world commitments start to really make it hard to get a game going, even regular groups start to experience trouble (unless extremely commited) as plans have to be made and re-made in order to accomodate all the many various social events and other things that occur in the time surrounding Christmas; having had to reschedule a number of games recently due to this my thoughts have recently turned to how to handle absent players in my online Fate game.
I’ve recently been reading “Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management” (a review can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-350PrvUUA), and it contains some good advice for setting down the rules of the social contact between the GM and the players in a roleplay group; from that and my own ideas i’ve been able to start formulating some rules that I intend to adhere to in my game going forwards to help minimalise last minute disruptions/cancellations, i’ve noted them below and then gone into my reasoning in a little more detail.
  • Choose a more regular time for the game to take place.
  • Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead.
  • Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players.

Choosing a more regular time for the game to take place
At the moment we tend to negotiate the date for the next session when we reach the end of the currently running one, initially this was because the players had trouble committing to a more regular time (due to altering work rotas, etc) and it was thought that through choosing it nearer the time it would minimise the amount of absences; this hasn’t really proven to be the case and I feel that not having a regular time causes players to feel less committed to the game or likely to be able to make plans around a session date, so it is my intent (at the beginning of next session) to discuss a regular day for the game with the players, if someone can’t make the odd one then hopefully the next couple of points should still allow the game to progress.
Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead
My current minimum of number of players for whom i’ll run the normal game is going to be 50% of the player party (in this case 2 players), should I have lower than this then, rather than abandoning the game, I will run a flashback/side-quest for the player that I do have, filling in some part of their character’s history and will then return to the ‘present day’ of the game when we have 50% or more players.
Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players
My current plan is that the characters of any missing players will be available as an Aspect that can be used to aid the players who are present, for example, if Gunnar Kron’s player can’t make it then the group will gain “Gunnar Kron, haunted norse warrior” or something similar as an Aspect, although Gunnar would not take part in a combat or encounter normally, if a PC found themselves in a situation where Gunnar could conceivably help then they could spend a Fate Point and invoke Gunnar Kron like any other Aspect.
I’ve not yet decided what i’d do regarding potential compels on these Aspects.

Keeping Track of Aspects for our Serpents Fall Game

I’m always looking for ways to improve our online Serpents Fall game (and indeed any game that I run), it occurred to me recently that part of the reason that players might not be as on the ball with Self-compels and using Aspects may be (in part or in full) due to them being unaware of the Aspects that are actually available for them to use.

It’s my intention, starting from next session to have a document (probably in the same Google Drive where the character sheets are stored) that lists all of the player Aspects and also any scene/NPC Aspects that the player characters are aware of available so that they can simply flick to the document in order to see what Aspects are available for use.

At the moment the document will look something like this:

* * *

Aspects Available

SCENE ASPECTS

NPC ASPECTS

CHARACTER ASPECTS

  • Ozuchi Komodo
    • Last of the Komodo Tribe
    • Those Stygian Shaman will stop at nothing
    • Medicine man
    • Easily assimilates local culture
    • Stygian
    • One day I will return to Stygia and unite my people as the prophecy foretold

  • Horesh Komani
    • Initiate sorceror death-priest
    • Uncomfortable with living energies
    • Destined for sorcerous greatness
    • Skilled with ceremonial obsidian death knives
    • Khemrian
    • It is my destiny to become the most powerful death-priest in Khemria

  • Gunnar Kron
    • Raiding party warrior
    • Murderous reputation
    • Experience raider
    • Warriors instincts
    • Norsican
    • I will redeem my past
  • Captain Benito
    • Cursed pirate captain
    • Cursed to never again sail the seas
    • Lemurian Heritage
    • Stick to the code
    • Member of the Scarlet Brotherhood
    • One day I will take back my rightful place as the Pirate King

* * *

It is also my intent to discuss with the players re-wording their Aspects slightly to make them into phrases that could more comfortably form part of a normal sentence, some of them already fulfil this criteria but I think there’s room to make them a little bit more descriptive now that we’re all a little more comfortable with how Aspects work.

Self-Compels in Fate

After finishing running the third session of our swords & sorcery Fate Accelerated campaign Serpents Fall last night using Google+ hangouts (video link here) I was having a little feedback chat with the players, which is something I like to do (if possible) at the end of every session (and I encourage my players to message me if they think of additional feedback or constructive criticism) since I believe that only by soliciting feedback from your players and others can your game grow and be fine-tuned into the optimum gaming experience for both GM and players. It occurred to me during this chat that there was one aspect of Fate Accelerated that the players hadn’t used a great deal during our three sessions thus far, and that was the use of Self-compels.

What are Self-compels?

For those who are not aware the following is what Fate Accelerated has to say about Compels:
If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, anyone can compel the aspect. You can even compel it on yourself—that’s called a self-compel.
Basically, if one of your Aspects affects your characters decision making/results in an event occurring that make your character’s life more complicated then the person who has suggested the complication (the Compel) offers you a fate point for accepting the additional RP arising from the complications.
If a players makes a suggestion for a complication arising from their own Aspects and the GM agrees then, although not explicitly stated in the Fate Accelerated rulebook, I have always assumed that the GM would be the one to award them with a fate point (since giving yourself a fate point out of your own pool makes no sense); this is something I have been using a great deal already in the first session of a Dresden Files RPG game run by a friend of mine (using a pre-cursor to the Fate Core system).
For example: In the DFRPG session I play a person who has been infected by a red-court vampire but has not killed by blood drinking yet and so he has not fully turned, he has the ability to call on some vampiric powers at the risk of his hunger overwhelming him. My character “Lucky” is an ex-gangster on the run from his family (most of which have now been converted into vampires), he began the game standing on the docks waiting for a boat laden with drugs to come in.
Since one of the other players was playing a law enforcement officer I compelled one of my own Aspects to say that, because i’d been keeping my head down, there’s things out there my character had been forced not to use the normal channels to recruit his hirelings and had ended up with sub-par criminals, one of whom had (unknowingly) tipped off the police and they were about to turn up and bust the operation. This gained me a fate point and bought me into proximity of another player character; Lucky was able to hide himself in the shadows as the police detained and bought in the boat, at this point I made another Self-compel to say that because my character would not stand to see innocent’s suffer that perhaps as the police boat bumped into the dock one of the policemen would fall overboard and bang his head.
The GM accepted this Self-compel and my character was forced to reveal himself, diving into the water to save the unconscious policeman (after all the guy was just doing his job). This small scene got me two fate points and was made far more personal (IMO) due to my use of Self-compels.
However, I have noticed (and mentioned to my players in our feedback session) that Self-compels aren’t particularly used a lot in our Serpents Fall game; now this may be because it is only our third session and some of the players are still very much getting used to the rules, but Self-compels are one of the great things about Fate Core and Fate Accelerated as far as I am concerned so I plan to think about ways to encourage my players to consider Self-compels.
Why are Self-compels so great?

Well for a number of reasons, but personally, I enjoy them because they give a degree of narrative control over to the players; rather than just having the GM hand you down the details of a scene, if you have suggested it as a Compel then you gain the ability to negotiate the details of the complicating scene or decision with the GM, it also personalises whatever occurs and you know that it is plot based specifically around your character
Self-compels also let your GM know what sort of stories and complications you’re looking for when it comes to your character, and most GMs are more than happy to oblige by providing additional scenes tailored to your character since they want everyone to enjoy the game, they are also useful for moving a session along when perhaps the pre-planned plot has stalled or you’ve reached a natural pause.

Plus it also gains you a fate point allowing your character to really shine when it counts 🙂

Fate Accelerated – Ships

I have decided to trim down the Approaches of vehicles somewhat since I don’t think that all of the standard player Approaches are required; I have decided to go with the following Skills/Approaches: 
  • Speed : Representing sailing speed and maneuverability.
    • Used to attack if ramming.
    • Used to defend if attempting to avoid damage via maneuverability.
  • Combat: Representing the ships ability to both deal out punishment and to receive it.
    • Used to attack with cannons or other weapons.
    • Used to defend if attempting to deal with damage via the ships innate toughness.
Below are the list of statistics that I have come up with for numerous different ship types:

I have amalgamated stress with the number of crew a ship possesses; for each point of stress the ship has 10 crew, during a combat each of these can be used to soak one level of stress (in addition to the option of using the ship’s consequences). Any ship reduced to half crew or less has it’s Approach/Skill scores halved (rounding down) until it can replenish crew (the ship stress boxes can only be ‘healed’ by taking on more crew).
If a player character is onboard then they may choose to take stress intended for the ship on their own character instead should they so wish.
Each of the ships received two fate points that can be used with it’s Aspects, and player characters can also use their own fate points to aid the ship, but only if they have an appropriate Aspect.
The Stunt Cannons means that when a ship fires it may target all enemies is the same zone using a single roll, the enemies then make seperate defence rolls to avoid harm as normal; any differences in scale are added/deducted to any stress caused after defence rolls have been made.

Serpents Fall – Cast of characters

We’re now on the run up to our third G+ hangout session for our Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated game so thought i’d post up a little about the characters that are taking part in the game:
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Captain Benito, deposed Pirate King

Captain Benito was once the chosen King of the Sword Isles, ruling over the Scarlet Brotherhood, however the treachery of his black-hearted colleague Horningold Blythe laid the flashy pirate low; a great and powerful curse was laid upon Benito, it was intended to kill him but the strength of his Lemurian heritage allowed the Captain to avoid this fate, but the sea would forever afterwards shun him, visiting disaster and misfortune on any ship should Benito try to use it to voyage across the waves. Spat out by the seas of the mainline, Benito quickly discovered his curse and immediately set about trying to find a way to have it removed, even seeking out help from the renowned spirit shaman of southern Stygia, it was here he encountered the wandering outcast Ozuchi Komodo and the death priest Horesh Komani, each also seeking their own destinies.
Benito has recently encountered an old enemy of his in the shape of Captain Hannibal Hawkins, a lieutenant of Blythe’s and one of the first people to call for his disposal; Hawkin’s black corsairs seem to be in league with the savage Picts, kidnapping people for some nefarious purpose. With the aid of his friends Benito has captured Hawkins, taken his ship and freed the prisoners, although he sustained a severe skull injury in the process.
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Gunnar Kron, norsican warrior seeking to atone for his past

As part of the Timber Wolf raiding fleet that ravaged Stygia, Kron spent many years as a terror to the more civilised people of Serpents Fall, proving himself worth the murderous and savage reputation that grew up around him; however when he was commanded to butcher those who could not fight back Kron refused and found himself forever outcast by the fleet. Ozuchi Komodo, the person who Kron had refused to kill, saw that the warrior had some part to play in the destinies unfolding and suggested that the forceful warrior join them. Kron now fights within his own code of honour, but the red spectre of his past constantly plagues him.
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Horesh Komani, khemrian death priest

Born amongst the death-worshipping tribes of Khemri, Horesh showed an early aptitude for the death magics and spiritual workings of the country’s priesthood, attracting the services of a death-raven spirit companion during his younger years; his rise to prominence however was watched with jealous eyes from certain quarters and, during his initiation exploring an ancient tomb, Horesh found himself forced into a position where he had to choose between the life of a fellow or advancing his own knowledge of death. Horesh found this decision easy to make and channeling death energy through his body slew his fellow priest.
As Horesh continues to expand his knowledge of the spirit world he finds himself increasingly drawn into situations where he must rely on the power of the spirits, but ever so slowly he finds himself owing a tangled web of favours that must someday be paid.
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Ozuchi Komodo, last survivor of the komodo tribe

From the moment he was born Ozuchi knew that he had a destiny, the spirit world revealed it’s secrets to him, that one day he was destined to help re-unite the fractured kingdoms of Stygia; however it appeared that his dreams would come to naught when the Timber Wolf raiding fleet were sighted on the southern coast and norsican raiders began to pillage and burn their way across the country. As his tribe fell, Ozuchi prepared to sell his own life dearly when again fate played it’s hand and one of the warriors (a norsican by the name of Gunnar Kron), disgusted by the brutality of the slaughter, turned against his fellows and helped Ozuchi to escape.
Some time later whilst exploring a ruined temple in the jungles of Khemri, Ozuchi witnessed two death-priests battling and, as one fell, he recognised the survivor Horesh Komani as his khemrian counterpart, he knew that together the two of them could re-unite their splintered homeland.
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